personal political

Location: Sydney, Australia

I have now moved this blog to Typepad: the new address is

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

moved to typepad

Dear readers, I'm making good on my new year's resolution to move this blog to Typepad. (Is it crazy to move from a free service to a paid-for one? I'm hoping the advantages become clear to me eventually.)
Please change your bookmark for this site to my new address. (Actually, please bookmark me if you hadn't before!) See you over there.


Susan Sontag, who died last week, was brilliant. Her response to 9/11 was a breath of fresh air. She was also a lesbian.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

happy new year

I know the new year is still a way off, but this will be my last blogging day for awhile, as, like a big proportion of Sydneysiders, we are off up the coast tomorrow for a week. (Actually, vehicular traffic seems to have diminished considerably today, so hopefully a lot of people have already left town.)

My personal new year resolutions are:
*to take up running once again (I bought new running shoes last week)
*to move this blog to my Typepad site, which is all set up and waiting, all I need is the time to make the move
* to un-busy my life so that I have time to do things like run, move to Typepad and make Christmas cakes (which I always vow I will do next Christmas and never have the time for when December rolls around...)
* to fully unpack (only one year after moving house)
* to create a beautiful garden like our next door neighbour's ("her garden is much more beautiful than ours" says Olle)

Political resolutions? Maybe there's no such thing. It's in the nature of new year resolutions to be concerned with personal improvement. I can only wish for positive political change in the coming year, though I don't hold out much hope ... hmm, perhaps my only tiny personal-political resolution for 2005 is to get involved with the P&C at my son's school. Education is going to be one of the key battlegrounds under the fourth Howard government and on the local level, I'm ready and willing to fight.

Thanks for reading. I hope you all have an enjoyable, safe time over the next week and manage to stay connected to the people who matter most to you.

blogtalk conference

There's going to be a conference on blogs in Sydney next May. From the contact email address, it looks like it will be at or sponsored by UTS.

I'm considering submitting a paper based on my MA dissertation (I passed by the way - I now have an MA in Mass Communications.)

[I found out about this conference from a blog produced on the other side of the world.]

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

sans frontiers

Reporters, in this case.

They even lend out bulletproof jackets.


The Association for Research on Mothering, based in Canada, will be sponsoring a conference in Australia next year on maternal subjectivities.

The association's journal is currently calling for papers on grandmothers and mothering and feminism.

route 79

I lived in south London and worked mostly in north-east London. Jag, a "British, European, 2nd-generation Indian" photo-blogs about his bus journeys in the west and north-west of the city.

lest we forget

I'm, as always, grateful that Tom and friends are on the Fallujah case.

secular humanism

I didn't notice until I read the letters in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald late last night (with one eye on the appalling but fascinating Nip/Tuck, which had a guest appearance by Vanessa Redgrave, whose hand I once shook at a party and whose daughter is one of the lead actors (what is the world coming to?)) that Adele Horin had written a column last Saturday about having raised non-religious children. She has perfectly expressed what I was trying to get at yesterday.

Monday, December 20, 2004

carnival of the animals

We had a sublime afternoon yesterday at the Sydney Opera House, watching and listening to Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, along with cartoonist and poet Michael Leunig, perform the Carnival of the Animals. [We have the Ogden Nash version read by Nonie Hazlehurst on tape and often play it in the car - the Leunig poems are completely different, focusing on environmental destruction of and by animals in Australia.]

A big audience full of children (many of them, by the looks of it, on Christmas outings with grandparents) was astonishingly quiet during the concert. Olle and our five year old friend were very good too. Despite all adult attempts to direct their attention to the various musical instruments, it was the on-stage cartooning which really grabbed their attention. But it was Tognetti's playing which held me spellbound.

religious troubles

I was raised and educated as a Catholic but have been totally non-religious since the age of 18. Now I'm raising a child and I face a kind of conundrum in explaining to him (he's just six) what religion is - and what race is.

Olle's best friend Joe comes from a family of practising 'cultural' Jews - and his mother is half Chinese. Joe is very brown.

The other day over dinner Olle asked 'Are we Christians?" 'No' 'Are we Jews?' 'No.'
'So we're Aussies'.

We explained that everyone who was born in Australia (I leave out the small matter of the recent court judgment that a girl born here is not entitled to Australian citizenship...) is Australian (I can't bring myself to use that word, 'Aussie'). He interjected to say that one girl from a Chinese family is not Australian. Why he chose her, when there are several Asian kids in his class, I don't understand. We assured him that she is Australian and explained that co-parent, who was not born here, had become Australian by going through a ceremony.
So everyone in his class is Australian, but some are also Jewish... I begin to name the Jewish kids: "Joe, Hannah..."

"Hannah is not Jewish, she isn't the same colour as Joe".

I insist that Hannah is Jewish and add the names of other friends of ours, reminding him of the Passover feast we went to this year.

At the library the next day I looked for simple books on religion for a six year old. Most of them were oriented more towards older kids, but I did get one called "Sam's Passover" and another on respecting cultural differences.

Yesterday, applying sunscreen, he said something about Joe being brown. I said that Joe looks more like his Chinese grandmother than his (blonde) Jewish relatives. Olle chanted "Joe is Chin-ee-ese". (And in the way of most conversations with children, which are highly fragmentary, something happened to change the subject, so I didn't get the chance to address this.)

I was speaking to a Jewish friend of mine about all this on the phone last night. She suggested depicting Jewishness and Christianity and our own non-religious household as a matter of different families having different stories that they share and enjoy. But our lack of religion also feels like a lack of tradition - and it's hard to convey a lack in a positive way...

This morning, walking to school, I decided to talk to him about not 'making fun' of other kids - I was worried that he might make a declaration about Joe's Chinese background, either to Joe or to a larger audience. I said, among other things, you wouldn't like it, would you, if someone said to you [in a singsong voice] 'Your grandad's dead'.

Immediately his face crumpled and he began to sob. We went into the schoolground, where Joe repeatedly asked me why Olle was crying. Olle kept crying, wiping snot onto his shirt and managed to tell me it was because "you teased me". I apologised and told him I was only giving him an example and that no one likes to be teased, whether it's for having curly hair or red hair or straight hair...

I really screwed that one up, leaving my lovely boy in tatters at the start of the day.

Any suggestions welcome.

christianity under attack

Barista has alerted me to a kerfuffle in Melbourne whereby some Christians are protesting that 'Christ is being left out of Christmas' in an orgy of political correctness. The same accusation was made against (practising Catholic) Mayor Clover Moore in Sydney, but it turns out that it is in fact the prime minister John Howard, chief of the anti-PC lobby, who has downgraded parliamentary Christmas celebrations.

All this is strangely reminiscent of the scene in the US, where rightwing Christians are now depicting themselves as victims of a politically correct anti-religion backlash (instigated by secular Jews in Hollywood)- 'hate crimes against Christians'.

Deep sigh.

knitted womb

A Californian pal (naturally) sent me this knitting pattern for a woolly uterus.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


My boy woke up (late - 8.30am) with a mild fever this morning - 38C. He was perfectly okay last night.

Co-parent had already gone out to work when he woke. I was ready to take him to school, then go to work. We really need the money (I'm a contractor and don't get sick or holiday pay).

Co-parent and I had three different telephone conversations about what to do. In the end I took him to school at 11am. He had eaten breakfast and cooled down slightly to 37.8C. I gave him some Panadol anyway. His friends ran to greet him with big smiles. They are having a lazy day - all the schoolwork has finished for the year and the teacher is busy clearing out the room while they mostly play outdoors. She was fine about the fact that he wasn't well and told him to let her know if he needed to lie down and sleep.

Despite this, I feel somewhat guilty about not having stayed home with him. Have I become one of those parents you read about who send their sick kids to daycare, thus infecting everyone else's kids, because they have to go to work? I swore I'd never be one of them.

I'm feeling a bit brain-fogged myself.

More: In fact it's not so much about infecting other kids, as that I never thought I'd opt to send him off to an institutional setting when he was sick - I thought I'd keep him at home at all costs (which we strove to do when he was under-5). I guess he's older now, more robust in every sense; plus the 'institution' has a caring, human face, and he was happy to go there (if he'd been very sick, he wouldn't have wanted to).

The other drawback to sending him out to face the world is that we succumbed to giving him Panadol to make it easier for him, even though I decided last year to try and follow the Steiner approach to fever, not to medicate but to let it take its course naturally, as a way of building up the immune system. I get the sense that a lot of children are over-medicated these days because there is so much pressure on parents not to take time off work to care for them at home.

He made it through the day but the fever returned overnight. This time I let it burn and it's subsided this morning. Today is the school picnic and he is very keen to go. He was up at 7am, temp 38C, asking when we could leave. I've taken the day off work and will accompany him to the picnic - we can leave early if he gets too tired.

word debates

Collins has launched an online living dictionary, in which readers can debate the meaning or vaidity of new words. Most of these I haven't heard before and I'm wondering if the people who submitted them actually made them up .. for example, sibling saviour (or maybe that's a word used in the British media which hasn't made it to Oz yet)...

This more general word site is interesting too. I once tried to register to play online Scrabble but couldn't download the software correctly, or something - anyway, I gave up in the end, though this makes me think about trying again.


The powerful British politician at the centre of a sex and visa scandal has resigned. (Leftwing) commentators agree he is a remarkable man, it is a personal tragedy, but that he was one of the most rightwing and authrotitarian Labour politicians of Blair's government.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

name calling

We had a lovely non-busy interval on Saturday afternoon - co-parent had gone out shopping, I lay down on the bed to rest (late night at the office party the night before) and Olle played on the floor.

He had some soft toys and after awhile I heard him being a character who said to a toy dog: "Are you a dog or are you a Muslim? Are you a dog or are you a Muslim?"

I sat up.

"What's a Muslim?" I asked him. He clearly had no idea at all. I don't think he even realised it was a type of person.

"Did you hear that word at school?" "Yes" "Who from?" "Aki"
"Does Aki say that to people he doesn't like?" "Yes"

Aki is a boy who often gets his name written on the board for misdemeanours. He is from a rougher area than our genteel, gentrified neighbourhood and is much more worldly wise than my son.

Before I had a chance to explain what a Muslim was, the phone rang. The moment passed.

This morning I told their teacher about this conversation. She was concerned. She said she would ask Aki what a Muslim is.

[I'm not sure if I should have told her - I don't want to get Aki into even more trouble than he normally is.]

I faintly recall that I have read or heard that 'Muslim' is a term of abuse in Sydney schools, in the same way that 'gay' can be. It makes sense, I suppose.

Fast-forward two days and we are having dinner and watching the school concert in the video-camera viewfinder. There is an autistic boy, Lew, in the year ahead of Olle at school. In years gone by Lew would have been described as a 'simpleton' and would not have been in an ordinary school, but now he is well integrated, thanks to a very hard-working mother and dedicated teachers.

Olle has never specifically mentioned Lew, though all the kids know each other (it's a small school). Lew was in one of the singing scenes on the video, though none of us pointed him out. Suddenly Olle started singing Summer Holiday, a song from the concert, but putting Lew's name into it: 'Lew is going on a summer holiday, Lew's not working for a week or two...' He giggled in that way that kids giggle when they are in a group making fun of someone, saying things which they think are very smart and funny and they giggle and laugh (and jeer) in unison. But his giggle sounded uncertain - he was seeking some sort of validation from us.

I didn't say anything, just changed the subject, but it was an 'aha' moment. Aha - so kids do mock Lew behind his back. I wonder if they mock him to his face. I doubt it - I think the teachers would be very careful not to let that happen. In fact, probably the kids who are actually in Lew's grade don't make fun of him, but support and accommodate him. Olle sounded like he was mimicking other kids, probably kids from his own class, kindergarten, who see Lew from afar and think it's clever, a bonding experience, to ridicule him.

I need to think about how to approach talking about these things with Olle. We have so far not had the need to talk to him about the possibility that other kids might make fun of him for having two mothers, but perhaps that is going to be the way in.

something about mary

A new play based on the Mary Poppins books by PL (Pamela) Travers (who was originally Australian) is for children over seven only. Younger children might find it too scary.

I approve. I had all the books as a child (I still have them) and Mary gave me the chills - she was not likeable at all.

Apparently Travers saw Mary Poppins as "the embodiment of repression and the subsequent release of sexual desire. When the Disney film was released, Travers disliked it, saying it had made the nanny too sweet." I can remember being puzzled by how very different the pinch-faced, grim Mary of the book's illustrations was, compared to the pretty Julie Andrews. Mary Poppins was one of the first films I ever saw, taken by our mother in the school holidays to the King's Cross cinema - which isn't there any more.

Monday, December 13, 2004

action figures

For the person who has everything: the Michael Jackson baby-drop scene.

Just one of many weird 'toys' available from a bizarre site.

on time

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, getting a child to school on time seems one of the most demanding activities I've ever engaged in. I find it hard to remember back to the pre-baby days of just getting myself to work, but I don't recall them being very complicated. I even managed to take a shower in the mornings, in fact I considered that an essential pre-requisite to the day. I gave up morning showers when Olle was a baby and now have one at night (when he is asleep). So I don't even have to fit that into my mornings. What exactly do I have to do? (Assume that each request/instruction to child has to be made at least two times and that he loiters and plays and daydreams around while I'm in a frenzy).

Today: Got up. Child still sleeping (big weekend). Co-parent has already left for work very early (after walking the dogs) so she can take time out for the school concert later in the day. The previous day I had washed and wrapped five soft toys which had been given to our son as a baby but which we had now decided we'd give as his gift to a Christmas charity at the concert. They were still unlabelled. Turn on iron, let cats out, feed cats, put small mat which one cat has pissed on into washing machine. Make boy's breakfast and prepare drink. Boy wakes up, comes downstairs with his uniform (which has been laid out for him the evening before.) He changes into his uniform, with a little assistance. Take frozen buns and bread rolls out of freezer, cut in half and hope they dethaw quickly. Send him upstairs to get his school shoes. Iron starts beeping (it's been on for 15 minutes). Make some green tea, set him up with breakfast at the table, go and iron my work clothes. Change into them. Come back and start labelling the charity gifts (first cut out labels, find tape, stick labels onto gifts). Put his socks and shoes on while he eats breakfast (not good for his independence but saves time). He finishes breakfast and tries to get himself some cashew nuts out of the cupboard. Spills a jar of almonds all over the floor. Put on some toast, make him pick up some of the almonds ("why do I always have to pick things up?"), pick up the rest, wash them (too expensive to throw them out). Ask him to bring his school bag to the kitchen. Start buttering his wholemeal scone for morning snack. Make his lunch roll. Place in his bag. Start making same for myself. Instruct him to place all gifts into a plastic bag and take it to the front dor. Send child upstairs to get his toothbrush. Supervise him brushing his teeth at kitchen sink while I finish making lunch for myself. Put on some toast. Decide to check his head for lice as he's been scratching a lot. Discover many nits. Spray his head with a tea-tree headlice preventative (he already has them, but still...) Send him to put his hat on. Instead he stands on the toilet to look in the mirror and wobble his second loose tooth. Go upstairs to visit bathroom and lock up. Find my shoes (junior dog often walks around with shoes in his mouth and deposits them in odd places). Come downstairs and lock the back door. Find boy's raincoat and help him into it. Put leashes on dogs, plastic bags into pockets, put my lunch into my own bag, make my toast, drink cold green tea in one go, put his school backpack on my back, place my bag on one shoulder, carry toast in one hand along with umbrella, have dogs on leashes on the other hand, instruct child to carry bag full of gifts, leave the house - on time (only just).

On a normal schoolday, we'd have to fit reading his school reader and supervising his spelling homework into this timeframe, but those tasks have now ended for the year.

We then walk to school. Stay for the morning assembly. Today was unusual because of the school concert. Normally I would not take the dogs, but would walk my bicycle to school and leave for work from there. Today I proceeded with dogs to the park for a walk, then took them home (had to put senior dog on a leash in the park to make her get a move on, she is so slow and stubborn now), at which point I discovered I'd forgotten to take my key. Knocked on an unemployed neighbour's door in order to make a phone call to co-parent, neighbour revealed he'd been given a key to our house by the ex-owners over a year ago (!), so I was able to get in, deposit the dogs, collect the video camera and head back for the school concert (which was incredibly sweet.) After that I came back home, changed shoes, got on my bike and rode to work to start the day.

Later: When I wrote 'dethaw' above, I was obviously aiming for 'defrost' or 'thaw' and my subconscious came up with an entirely new word.

Even later: Our cats, by the way, are well house trained but every so often one of them (I'm not sure which one) pisses on the mat at the back door when we are too late letting them out in the morning. I lock the cats in overnight so they can't hunt, so opening a window is not an option. It's a washable mat, so no big deal.

As Lori notes, this is with only one child, one who is at quite an independent age (but he is a dreamer...) But I think what adds to the pressure is getting myself to work too. And I stay there till 6pm, so that when we get home in the evenings, it's all systems go for immediate dinner and bedtime. I often put the washing machine and dishwasher on in the mornings and have to deal with that on return.

When Olle was in Stalag Montessori at age three, we had to get him to school by 9am and send his lunch. It didn't feel as difficult, because I wasn't working and because he didn't have a uniform and didn't have to do any homework.

This morning we were actually 10 minutes early! That's the end-of-year no-homework factor - although I did have to spend some time over breakfast removing dead nits from his hair.

american survey

"Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that, as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father, according to a new NEWSWEEK poll on beliefs about Jesus."
And that's just the beginning.
Thanks to Francis, who is learning Swedish, for the link.

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